The Washington Redskins returned to prominence in the 2012 NFL season, with the electrifying arrival of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. For those of us long-suffering ‘Skins fans, RG3 was the oasis in the desert, lifting a moribund franchise to a 10-6 record and the NFC East title. Now, after an offseason of recovery from a torn ACL, we ask if the ‘Skins can do it all over again and this time add a playoff run.
In spite of RG3’s presence, Washington did not throw the ball a lot last year. They were near the bottom of the league in pass attempts, but what they lacked in volume, they made up for in efficiency. Griffin, showed an amazing ability to generate good yardage down the field, complete a high percentage of throws and avoid mistakes, all the while staying constantly on the move.
There is no clear go-to-receiver on this team—Pierre Garcon has that status, but none of the receivers really piled up big numbers. Griffin did what great quarterback do, and that’s make his receivers, rather than waiting for them to make him.
The running game has been the calling card of head coach Mike Shanahan in his own past, and it’s been the trademark of the Redskins’ best teams in the Joe Gibbs era. It’s therefore appropriate that power football returned to D.C. in 2012 behind another great rookie in Alfred Morris. The kid ran for over 1,600 yards, more than anyone not named Adrian Peterson and almost singlehandedly lifted the team past the Dallas Cowboys in the winner-take-all NFC East season finale when RG3’s knee was clearly limiting him.
It adds up to an offense that finished fourth in the NFL in total points last year. Defensively, is where the Redskins must improve. The only thing they do really well is get interceptions—while that’s not insignificant, it does come at the price of blown coverages and big plays. In that regard, high-risk, high-reward corner DeAngelo Hall is the poster child for this team.
The Redskins have to hope that a healthy Brian Orakpo—the outside linebacker and Geico commercial star missed all but two games last year—will result in a better pass rush, which in turn means better defense. The D doesn’t have to be great, but they have to get themselves from 22nd in the NFL in points allowed to around the middle of the league.
TheSportsNotebook’s preseason NFL analysis has focused on measuring teams against their Over/Under win prop in Las Vegas. Washington’s is 8.5 I often bail on making predictions on my favorite teams, as I’ve usually either drank too much Kool-Aid or go pessimistic to guard my emotions. But I think picking the Over meets any standard of objectivity here.
It’s not that I can’t imagine Washington failing—I’m nervous about the start of the season. But if you offer me a bet where a team could go 9-7, miss the playoffs, be universally regarded as a disappointment, and I can still cash an Over…well, then that bet makes sense to me. The ‘Skins have the look of a team that would go anywhere from 8-8 to 11-5, and that means more room is with the Over.